Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=36003
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 6:26:00 AM CST
Courtesy of Electronic Learning Products
“The program has been a great way to encourage many of our below level students to engage in reading.” --Principal Pam Locke of Frost Elementary School
“Students could not wait to share their success stories with me and would practically drag me to the lab to ‘show me’ how well they did.” --Principal Mary Frances Ledo of Temple Terrace Elementary School
“I call it the ‘Principal’s Karaoke Club’.” --Principal Lillian Wagner of Palm River Elementary School
“This program was met with enthusiasm and excitement by our students, staff and administration. We hope to acquire necessary funds to continue with Tune Into Reading in the Fall of 2007.” --Principal Anna Brown of Belle Witter Elementary School
Singing can make young students better readers.
That is the conclusion of researchers who tested Tune Into Reading, an innovative program that uses singing technology to motivate kids to learn.
The program uses software adapted from Carry-A-Tune, which uses songs and reading passages to assist children of varying grade levels in speech recognition and pronunciation.
“As they sing, they are reading and they don’t realize it,” said Carlo Franzblau, CEO of Electronic Learning Products and creator of Tune Into Reading. “They reread the song lyrics 20 to 30 times and doing that repeated reading is developing word recognition.”
Carry-A-Tune, developed in 2004, is a consumer product that uses a vocal range analyzer that tracks the singer's pitch and rhythm, comparing it to the correct pitch of the song. This allows the singer to note exactly where their pitch, rhythm and tempo need to be corrected.
Franzblau received a phone call from the mother of a seventh-grader who was using the singing software. She said her daughter’s reading had significantly improved.
Franzblau met with Susan Homan, professor of literacy at the University of South Florida, and asked her to conduct a study to determine if the original product really did help struggling readers, Homan said.
The test study involved 48 students--24 struggling readers who were given the program and 24 who served as a control group.
“The treatment students gained over one full year in instructional reading level, and the control students made no gains,” Homan said.
Impressed with the results, Franzblau developed a Web-based school version called Tune Into Reading in 2006. The program is currently being used in 75 Florida schools, and in a few schools in Texas, New York and New Jersey in grades ranging from second through twelfth.
Like Carry-A-Tune, the Tune Into Reading program uses a microphoned headset linked to a computer. The software has a reading assessment and on-screen speech recognition model.
It provides immediate feedback on pronunciation and accuracy, Franzblau said.
The program consists of reading passages and songs. Students read a passage to assess their reading level and are given a song whose lyrics match that reading level. They are then required to read the song lyrics before they actually sing them.
Homan is currently in her third year of researching this product.
“The first and second studies involved over 500 students at the elementary, middle and high school levels,” Homan said. “The results were consistent. All struggling readers gained one year or more instructionally in nine weeks of use.”
Franzblau said for the product to be effective, it should be used three times a week for 30 minutes at a time. The price of the software is $199 for a one-year renewable subscription, Franzblau said.
Principal Lillian Wagner of Palm River Elementary School in Tampa, Florida has been using the program in her school since last October.
“This is the most motivating program I have seen in years,” she said. “It has helped our students improve a lot.”
Wagner credits Tune Into Reading with being particularly helpful to special education students and English language learners. She said many of her students tune into FOX’s “American Idol,” and this is their version of “Reading Idol.”
Franzblau is exhibiting the reading program next week in Toronto at the International Reading Association’s annual conference. Educators representing all 50 states will be in attendance.
“We are capable of installing the program in any state in the country,” Franzblau said.
According to Franzblau, Tune Into Reading is currently available for school districts only, but will be made available for consumer use at home in 2008.